Dane steals win for UT

Déjà vu for Dane Bradshaw was curtains for the Florida Gators.

Bradshaw intercepted a sidecourt inbounds pass and drove to the tie-breaking layup with 15.9 seconds left as No. 10 Tennessee nipped No. 12 Florida 76-72 Wednesday night in Gainesville. It was also Bradshaw who hit a layup in the closing seconds that enabled Tennessee to trim Florida 80-76 Jan. 21 in Knoxville.

UT coach Bruce Pearl substituted 6-10 Major Wingate for 6-2 JaJuan Smith with 20 seconds left because he wanted the towering Wingate to pressure the inbounds pass. The ploy worked, as Florida's errant pass was scooped up by Bradshaw.

"Bradshaw makes the play, the steal, the catch and the basket," Pearl said. "That may be the play of the year right there."

The Vols, now 20-4 overall and 11-2 in SEC play, locked up the Eastern Division title. They can finish no worse than tied with the Gators (22-5, 8-5) for the East crown and they own the tie-breaker by virtue of having swept Florida head to head. It was UT's first sweep of the Gators since the 1999-2000 season.

Scrappy Tennessee remains tied with LSU for the SEC overall lead. The Tigers won at Vanderbilt to pad their league mark to 11-2.

"I couldn't be happier," Pearl said. "This team wants to win as much as any team I've ever coached. Some have wanted to win as much but none has wanted to win more than this one."

Wednesday night's game was fiercely contested, with the final minutes proving wild and woolly.

A 3-pointer by C.J. Watson gave Tennessee a 67-63 lead with 3:54 left but native Tennessean Corey Brewer (Portland) hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 69 with 1:36 to go. JaJuan Smith nailed a 3 for the Vols but another native Tennessean, Lee Humphrey (Maryville), answered with a 3 for Florida that tied the score at 72 with 51.9 seconds left.

With around 25 seconds left JaJuan Smith penetrated and dished to a wide-open Andre Patterson. Patterson bobbled the ball, however, and Florida's Al Horford corralled it. Gator coach Billy Donovan called timeout to set up a potential game-winning shot but Brewer's inbounds pass was intercepted by Bradshaw, who then spun through traffic for a layup that gave UT a 74-72 lead.

When Brewer missed a 3-pointer, Chris Lofton got the long rebound and was fouled. His two free throws with 2.6 seconds left sealed the win.

The frantic finish capped a remarkable comeback that saw Tennessee rally from a 13-point first-half deficit.

With Florida leading 36-23, Lofton hit three 3-pointers to spark a 13-4 spurt that pulled the Vols within 40-36 by halftime.

Tennessee pulled even at 47-all on a Stanley Asumnu transition bucket with 13:36 remaining. A three-point play by Wingate and a 3-point bomb by Smith gave the Vols a 57-52 lead. Bradshaw scored on a follow and a 3-pointer that gave Tennessee its biggest lead at 64-56 with 6:08 to go.

Moments after surviving the wild finish, Pearl noted: "This team is special."

Tennessee shot 50 percent (30 of 60) from the field and 11 of 21 from 3-point range. The Gators shot 46 percent but just 3 of 13 from beyond the arc. Florida outrebounded the Vols 36-31.

Lofton led UT with 16 points. Bradshaw finished with 15 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Watson chipped in 13 points and Wingate 11.

Joakim Noah led Florida with 20 points, despite missing the final two minutes after taking an elbow from Watson that dislodged one of his front teeth. Brewer sank just 7 of 19 shots but finished with 17 points. Chris Richard came off the bench to add 14 points, all in the first half.

Tennessee hosts Arkansas Saturday at 1 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.


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